Is Heaven For Real?

Photo via Google Images

Photo via Google Images

Last weekend I went to see the movie Heaven is For Real. In it, Greg Kinnear plays Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo whose four-year-old son Colton has a near-death experience and claims to have gone to heaven.

Burpo, who preaches every Sunday about Jesus and heaven, struggles to believe that his son really went to heaven despite some pretty compelling evidence (Colton speaks very matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth—such as the baby his mother lost preterm). Burpo begins to question what heaven really is, and how to preach about it to his congregation.

Image via www.nycbelief.com

Image via www.nycbelief.com

Belief is a funny thing. Some people believe in God, and Jesus. Some believe in Allah. Some people believe that the bible is the religious text and claim it is proof that Jesus lived. Others read the Torah or the Koran and proclaim it to be the true religious text.

In many parts of the world reincarnation is a given. In some places, not so much. Some people don’t believe in anything religious or spiritual.

In a recent blog post, Pennies From Heaven I talked about messages that I believe my departed loved ones have left to remind me that they are still with me. Someone I know read the post and had this to say:

Suzanne PLEASE don’t believe these things. The bible very clearly shows that the dead are asleep in the grave until the resurrection when Jesus returns. The devil preys on people’s grief and puts on demonstrations trying to convince that their loved ones are around , or in heaven and trying to send them messages. PLEASE stay away from this it is NOT your mom or your sister.

So who’s right?

Photo via Google Images

Photo via Google Images

In the final sermon, Todd Burpo poses the following question, “If we knew for sure that heaven existed, wouldn’t we live our lives differently?”

He then goes on to say that one of the problems is that we measure miracles with yardsticks instead of looking for them in the everyday joys that surround us. Heaven is all around us and it’s in us.

One of the beautiful things about living in America is that we’re free to believe whatever we want. Whatever helps us make sense of this life and the world around us, whatever comforts us in our greatest hours of need.

In terms of what happens after this life? By the time any of us learns for sure, it’ll be too late to tell.

Photo via Google Images

Photo via Google Images

As for me? I believe in God. And in angels. The pennies from heaven and all the other messages I receive comfort me, give me hope, make me feel less alone.

And no matter what religious or spiritual belief you subscribe to, how can that be wrong?

What about you? If you knew for sure that heaven existed, would you live your life differently?

The Land of PEEPS: When is Enough, Enough?

Peeps

Last weekend I went to CVS to pick up a prescription. As I wove my way back to the pharmacy, I walked through AN ENTIRE AISLE of PEEPS.

Back in the good old days (1960’s and 1970′s) shopping was much simpler than it is today. There was one kind of bread (Wonder white), one kind of spaghetti (the long kind), one kind of eggs (the kind the egg man delivered). There was one brand of tampons (Tampax) and two kinds of sanitary napkins (maxi and mini).

And there was one kind of PEEPS: yellow chicks.

Back then, shopping for a week took little more than twenty minutes. Today said shopping takes a good hour because, with nearly every item we buy, we suffer from analysis paralysis. Try to send your husband to the grocery store instead? Plan on at least one phone call per item on the list. You may as well do it yourself.

When did this happen? And when is enough, enough?

Take PEEPS for example.

They’re not just for Easter anymore. Now you can buy them for Valentines Day, Easter, “Summer,” Halloween and Christmas.

PEEPS chocolate mousse bear

You can get them in original, chocolate covered, chocolate-dipped and “special” flavors.

PEEPS SweetLemonade_Img

They come in a rainbow of colors

PEEPS Rainbow of colros

And you can get them shaped like a chick, bunny, pumpkin, ghost, cat, bear, heart or a gingerbread man.

PEEPS ghosts1

You can get them traditional or sugar-free.

PEEPS sugar free chics

You can even prepare them (at least) 49 different ways.

PEEPS Chantilly Cream Filled Oranges

PEEPS Chantilly Cream Filled Oranges

PEEPS Lemon Curd Cake

PEEPS Lemon Curd Cake

PEEPS Bunny Dip Recipe

PEEPS Bunny Dip Recipe

 

You can even test your PEEPS IQ (Click HERE).

You get the picture. The question is, when is enough, enough? When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing? Does anyone besides me miss the good old days?

Who’s Your Mini Me?

Photo via Google Images

Photo via Google Images

In the early 80’s, my sister Diane and I had a circuit of bars we hung out on during the weekends, depending on what band was playing where. One of our favorites was a band called White Fox. There were two members of the band, both female. One of them was my mini-me.

Though I’d never met her, it was not uncommon for people to approach me, call me Janet, and talk to me as if I knew who they were and what they were talking about. And then one night, Diane and I were hanging out, minding our own business, when Janet herself approached me.

“You must be Suzanne,” she said. “People have been mistaking me for you for some time now and I must say, I can see why. In fact, you look more like me than my actual twin does.” And then she told me that her parents were there that night and would I mind coming over to meet them. “Not at all,” I said.

Janet’s parents were flabbergasted when they saw me. They took pictures of the two of us together. I met Janet’s fraternal twin, and her parents joked that Fraternal Twin and I must’ve been switched at birth. Could be, I said, but then that would mean that you also misplaced seven other daughters because I look exactly like my seven sisters.

A few years later, as I was visiting my parents in San Francisco (I still lived in Chicago then), I attended a holiday barbeque at their condominium complex. I watched as my father approached Dwight Clark (wide receiver for the San Francisco Forty Niners ) and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” my father said. “You must be Dwight Clark. People around here have been mistaking me for you ever since you moved in. I hope you don’t mind, but I signed a few autographs on your behalf.”

Dwight roared with laughter, as did my mother and I and Joe (Montana, who also lived in the building). “I must admit,” Dwight said, “the resemblance is uncanny.” And it is. See for yourself:

Ronald James Whitfield

Ronald James Whitfield

I

Dwight Clark, photo via Google Images

Dwight Clark, photo via Google Images

What about you? Do you have a doppleganger?

 

My Night With David Cassidy

Photo Courtesy of Cache Creek Casino Resort

Photo Courtesy of Cache Creek Casino Resort

In honor of his 64th birthday today, I am reposting this blog, which originally aired on November 15, 2013. I’m pleased to say that after the first time I posted it, I was contacted my David’s web mistress and am thrilled to say that my post has been added to David’s website!! You can find it here. Or you can just read below:

I fell in love for the first time on September 25, 1970. I was nine. And a half. His name was David Cassidy, star of the new hit-show The Partridge Family. Every Friday night for the next four years I tuned in to watch him sing his hit songs. I bought every album and played them until my sisters screamed for mercy.

I saved my allowance to buy the most recent Tiger Beat magazine, and I hung posters of him on the back of my door and kissed him goodnight. Every night. I even hung one on the ceiling above my bed so I could see him first thing every morning and last thing before I turned out the light.

My love for David has been an enduring love. Though he dropped off the radar screen after the show ended in March of 1974, he has remained firmly implanted in my heart. I’ve been in love a few times since David—Donny Osmond was next in line—but nothing can ever replace or even equal that special feeling you get from your first true love.

And then one day, a few years ago, I happened to be talking to the entertainment manager at the Indian Casino I work for. “Ben,” I said, “you should think about getting David Cassidy to perform here.” To my surprise and delight, Ben thought it was a great idea. My heart began to flip-flop at the thought.

Ben called me a few weeks later to share the good news. David Cassidy had been booked. He was coming to my home turf, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands (and hopefully lips) on him.  “I’ll need a front row ticket,” I told Ben. “And a ticket the meet-and-greet.”

Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Whitfield Vince

I spent the entire week before the show trying on every possible outfit combination. When the big night arrived I left work early, checked into the B&B down the street with two girlfriends, and primped like I was going to the Prom. Over dinner, my friends and I thumbed through the Tiger Beat magazine I’d bought on EBay for $20 to find all the places where David had autographed (courtesy of Ben). We laughed hysterically at the back page:

Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Finally, the big moment arrived. I took my seat in the front row, dead center, and sucked air in through the narrow opening in my throat. When the lights dimmed and he took the stage, I was no longer a forty-something, happily-married woman. I was a young girl, and I was in love.

David began singing—not sure what song—and I pulled out my cell phone to capture the moment. I knew cameras were forbidden, but hey, I knew the security director so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get kicked out. David stood on the stage, directly in front of me, and motioned with his finger for me to come to the stage.

My heart raced and my cheeks burned. Crap, he was going to take my phone. And then something I never expected happened. David bent down, leaned over, and kissed me! Full on the lips, he kissed me. The feel of his lips on mine—comingled with the scent of his cologne—was more than I could bear.

I can die now. My life is complete.

It was then that the women rushed the stage. I stayed put with my forearms resting on the stage, claiming my spot, daring the other women with my eyes to even try impinging on my territory. I craned my neck and stared up at him with adoring eyes, and it seemed every song was sung just for me. And then, something else unexpected happened.

David towered over us, wiping the sweat from his brow with a small blue towel, and my friend Janine asked David if she could have the towel. Incredulous, he asked her why she wanted it. “Because my friend here has been in love with you her entire life,” she said. A few minutes later, David dropped it in front of her.

Photo courtesy of Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Photo courtesy of Suzanne Whitfield Vince

After the show, I slapped my meet-and-greet pass on and stormed the line, managing to position myself second (the Casino’s CEO is always first). I have no idea what I said to him that night, but I do remember our second kiss. I remember that he was charming, and gracious, and he seemed genuinely happy to meet me. I held him close—he held me closer—and smiled for the camera. And then I waved goodbye to the boy man I will always love.

Photo via Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Photo via Suzanne Whitfield Vince

As I tucked my nine-year-old self into the twin bed back at the B&B, I stared up at the ceiling, an enormous smile fixed to my face, and I knew that nothing could ever top this night. My childhood yearning was complete. I never wanted, or needed, to see David Cassidy again. Except maybe in my dreams.

What about you? Who was your teenage heartthrob? Did you buy magazines and hang posters?

Pennies from Heaven and Messages from my Sister

This is where I keep the Pennies from Heaven I find

This is where I keep the Pennies from Heaven I find

When my mother died thirteen years ago, I looked for signs of her presence everywhere. I asked her to visit me in my dreams and looked for evidence that she was with me, but found none. Years later, I realized I was trying too hard. Was looking for something too specific, too concrete. So much so that I missed out on plenty of messages from person I had loved most on earth.

But now I see signs of her presence everywhere. She comes to me in butterflies, and pennies face-up on the ground. She comes when I need her most, and sometimes for no reason at all except to remind me that she’s with me.

Photo via Google Images

Photo via Google Images

Last week, my sister Debbie passed away. Growing up, we were very close. Ten years older than me, Debbie took me places with her friends and never made me feel like I was just a kid. I was one of the girls. After moving to California more than 25 years ago, we didn’t talk much, but the love I felt for her remained strong.

Me and my big sister, Debbie

Me and my big sister, Debbie

Last year, after complications from spinal surgery, Debbie became a quadriplegic. She was on a ventilator and lived in constant fear of not being able to breathe for the last nine months of her life. After visiting her in Chicago last October, I could only think about her when I was at home, alone, because in those moments her suffering became my suffering, and it overwhelmed me.

Precious last moments with my sister.

Precious last moments with my sister.

Because of the distance, and because of her inability to communicate in any way, I had not spoken to my sister since my visit. When I received word of her passing, I wondered if she knew how much I loved her. How much I would miss her. And how glad I was that she was my sister.

Debbie was quick to answer my questions. Within 24 hours of her passing, my sister sent me three messages:

After learning about my sisters passing, I spent the day writing and reading. Only in the evening did I turn on the television. The first show I watched was the prior week’s The Good Wife, where Alicia learns that Will—the man she loved but could never have—has died. In that moment, Alicia’s entire world is forever changed.

Message number one: I know how much you love me, and I understand how painful it was to lose me.

The next show I watched was the prior week’s Gray’s Anatomy. As the show opens, a man has been permanently paralyzed in a car accident. He’s a quadriplegic and, because his diaphragm was injured, he will live on a ventilator the rest of this life. The man is heavily sedated and his wife wants Christina (Yang) to wake him and ask him if he wants to live like that, or would prefer to be disconnected from the vent and allowed to die.

As the man considers his choice, Christina envisions her life unfolding in two separate ways. The vision of the future shows the injured man choosing to live, suffering and angry at his fate. When returning to the present, the man chooses to die.

Message number two: My passing was for the best. For the past nine months, I was not living. I’m free now, and I’m at peace.

The following morning I went for a run. I thought about my sister the entire way, and just before making the turn toward home, I began to cry. In that very moment, the song Sister by Dave Matthews began to play on my ipod. As he sang the words, I heard my sister’s voice:

Sister, I hear you laugh
My heart fills full up
Keep me please
Sister, when you cry
I feel your tears running down my face
Sister, Sister will you keep me?
–Dave Mathews, Sister

Message number three: I’m glad that you were my sister, too.

What about you? Do you receive message from a loved one that has passed on?

Life Lessons from Breaking Bad: Learning to Dance with Your Shadow

Breaking Bad

As usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short when it comes to watching the best shows on television (I mean, just last year I watched my first full episode of Big Bang Theory). Then again, one could say that I am simply letting the rest of society deem what’s good, decide if a show is worth my while, before I make the investment of time.

Most recently, I had the chance to watch the entire Breaking Bad series (starring Bryan Cranston as Walter While and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman). I normally stay away from violent shows, but since I had three weeks off work and nothing to do with my time (except recover from surgery), and I’d already watched the first three seasons of Downton Abbey, I decided to give it a try.

Can I just say that this show is brilliantly written (created and produced by Vince Gilligan) and superbly acted? And really, once you get past the first episode the violence isn’t that bad. Okay, it is, but it’s just so well acted that I really didn’t mind it. In fact, as the show unfolded, I was able to find some parallels between the show and real life.

Below are a few of the life lessons I gleaned from the show. In case you haven’t watched it yet, I’ve labeled the (Spoiler) alerts.

We All Have a Dark Side
I call it our shadow selves. That part of us that thinks dark thoughts and houses our fears, anger and other negative emotions. It feels the hurt inflicted on us by life, and fantasizes about doing things that we would never in our right minds consider doing.

For most of us, the dark side is a safe place to work out our anger and pain, so we can return to the light. But for some, the dark side beckons and provides too great a temptation.

(Spoiler) In the first episode of Breaking Bad, Walter White—a mild-mannered high school Chemistry teacher—learns he has lung cancer and is told he only has about six months to live. Working two dead-end jobs (he moonlights as a cashier at a car wash) and realizing that he has nothing to leave behind for his family, Walt becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his life.

After going on a ride-along with his DEA Agent brother-in-law, Walt learns how profitable the meth business is, and crosses over to the dark side by partnering up with Jesse Pinkman, a former student and the meth cook that escaped the bust by climbing out the bedroom window.

You Never Know What Road Life Will Take You Down
When we’re young, we set a vision of what our lives will look like when we’re 25, then 30, and so on. And then, life happens. We’re faced with many forks in the road to our futures, and are required to make decisions that will alter our set course.

I have yet to meet one person whose life turned out the way they planned. I’m no exception. Having grown up in a big family, I never imagined my life without children of my own. I also never imagined that I would graduate from college with honors (or graduate, period), run a marathon and finish an Ironman Triathlon. I never imagined I’d marry a career military man or become a writer. Yet, such is my life. And I couldn’t imagine it any differently. Or any better.

(Spoiler) Walter White’s life took a few more turns than mine. Once a promising chemist who greatly contributed to the breakthrough of a multi-billion dollar company, Walt left the company, selling his financial interest for $5,000 to make the down payment on his first home.

I’m sure Walt never envisioned himself a meth cook or a murderer, yet by the end of the first episode, he had become both.

There is an Inner BadAss Inside Each of Us
My inner badass was born in middle school. Tired of being picked on by my older sisters, as well as the mean girls at school, I began fighting with anyone who ticked me off. I once even punched my best friend in the stomach.

I’ve since put away the boxing gloves and fight only with words, and only for my principles, but my inner badass remains, ready to fight for a worthy cause.

Heisenberg. Photo via Google Images

(Spoiler) When Walt first began cooking meth, he told himself it was temporary. That he would stop when he had earned enough to put his two children through college and pay off the mortgage. He was still the mild-mannered high school teacher at heart. But when the distributor that Jesse was selling to (Tuco) beat him and refused to pay in advance, Walt takes on a new persona: Heisenberg, and takes matters into his own hand.

We’re All Capable of Doing Terrible Things
Sometimes they happen by accident. Sometimes we do them out of anger or rage. And sometimes we’re faced with an impossible situation where we have no choice but to act. To kill or be killed. To harm someone in order to protect someone we love.

(Spoiler) Walt first dons the Heisenberg persona in order to convince Tuco to distribute their product. But as the seasons wear on, Walt becomes Heisenberg. Where in episode 1 Walt feels terrible about having to murder a man (it was kill or be killed), he eventually becomes a complete badass and doesn’t think twice about killing people. He even lets Jesse’s girlfriend choke to death because she has threatened to expose him.

 

Shadow Dancing

Life is a dance between light and dark. Yin and Yang. Only recently have I begun to embrace my dark side. To acknowledge its existence. To allow myself to truly feel anger and pain and sadness. And to not judge myself too harshly when my inner badass gets the better of me. The key is finding the balance between light and dark.

What about you? Have you learned to dance with your shadow self?

Attention all Writers: Please Save the Puppies

Save The Puppies

A few years ago, in order to quell the tedium of my 110-mile round-trip commute, I began listening to audio books. It quickly became an addiction. Though I write romance books, my supplier prefers murder mysteries, so that’s what I listened to. And hey, as expensive as audio books are, who am I to argue.

But then I listened to a book where the antagonist (bad guy) beat a poor, defenseless puppy to death. I stopped listening to the book immediately and got my own subscription to www.audible.com so I could listen to my own kind of books. Ones that do not involve the savage murder of innocent animals. I mean, seriously, who would want to listen to listen to such a book? More, what kind of person actually writes that kind of book?

And so I began listening to women’s fiction and romance novels, and listening to books on tape became safe again.

But recently, my friend and author Jansen Schmidt posted a blog entitled, Sometimes You Just Have to Kill ‘Em. In the post, Jansen talks about how upset her husband was when one of his favorite characters in a book he was reading was killed off. She argues that sometimes it’s necessary to kill off a character (for various reasons), and asks if any of us (writers) have ever killed off a character.

My reply? No, none of my characters have ever pissed me off enough.

And then Jansen, who is also my critique partner and has therefore read everything I’ve written, reminded me that I have indeed killed off a few characters.

Worse, she reminded me that, in my most recent work, I even killed a baby!

I gasped at the realization that she was right. But to be clear, I didn’t actually kill the baby; murder it in cold blood like the puppy-killing author. My character lost a near-term child. It is not the same thing. So not the same thing! Right?

What about you? Have you ever read something in a book that made you stop reading it?

 

 

The Joy of Being Cold

The Joy of Being Cold girls in binkinis

A few weeks ago, as I stepped out of a hot, steamy bath, a cold draft of air from the ceiling vent assaulted me, left me covered in gooseflesh. As I reached for my bathrobe, a strange thought occurred to me.

As humans, we are averse to being cold. The minute we feel a chill, we reach for something to warm us. Without a second thought, we don our jackets or sweaters or blankets and banish the chill from our bodies.

The same is true with hunger. And pain. And everything else that makes us uncomfortable. When we’re hungry (and often when we’re not), we reach for something to eat. When we’re in pain, we take a pill to make it go away.

In fact, our life mission might be summed up to this: At all costs, avoid discomfort.

But if we never feel discomfort, how can we truly appreciate the gift of comfort? If we never allow ourselves to be cold, to really feel what it’s like to be cold, then how can we really appreciate the warmth of a blanket, or a fuzzy flannel nightgown, or a cup of hot cocoa?

Sarah Polley in My Life Without Me

Sarah Polley in My Life Without Me

I recently watched a movie called My Life Without Me in which Sarah Polley, wife and mother of two young girls, learns she has terminal cancer and only about a month to live. At the Laundromat one night, she falls asleep and wakes up with a man’s coat covering her. She stands to leave and hands the coat back to Mark Ruffalo. “You keep it,” he says. “No thanks,” she replies. “I like being cold. It makes me feel alive.”

And so I made it my mission to allow myself to feel any and all discomfort over the next three weeks without rushing to eliminate it. Did I mention that I was home recovering from surgery?

The first week, I had drains from the breast cancer reconstructive surgery I’d just undergone. Plastic tubing on both sides that is inserted slightly toward the back, making it painful to lean back or lay down.

But I had made a deal with myself and I was going to keep it. Every time I leaned back on the sofa cushion, rather than wince at the pain, I acknowledged it was there, but did not react to it (and I did not take any drugs to numb the pain). It took a little practice, but after a couple of days, the grimacing stopped all together. Instead I focused on how wonderful I would feel when the drains were removed that Friday. And before Friday even arrived, I barely gave the pain any thought.

It was another week after the drains came out before I could take a tub bath, and when the day arrived, I turned the air conditioning on full blast and stood naked under the vent in the bathroom until I was shivering with cold.

I contemplated the feeling of being cold, thought about the people who can’t afford heat, and those who live on the streets and are perpetually cold during the winter. I wanted to step into the steamy tub and relieve my quivering body, but I stood under the vent a while longer. I stood there until being cold no longer bothered me.

And when I plunged into the hot bath, rather than feeling relieved that I was no longer cold, I felt the true joy of being warm.

What about you? Have you ever made peace with something that used to bring you discomfort?

Writing is an Endurance Sport

LV Marathon Finish

I started running in 2001. The first time I ran, I huffed and puffed my way to the corner and back and wondered what in the heck I was thinking. The next day wasn’t much better. But then, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And I was not a quitter (except when I tried to golf).

In 2003, I ran my first marathon. In the two years since I’d begun running, I’d logged over a thousand miles, gone through a dozen pairs of running shoes, incurred at least seven of the ten top running-related injuries, and experimented with every imaginable form of nutrition.

I read every magazine made for runners and triathlete’s, and scoured Mental Training for Peak Performance for tips on how to avoid hitting The Wall (also known as the 20-mile marker).

I was as prepared for Race Day as one can be.

Or rather, I should say that I was prepared in all the ways a runner could be prepared. And then, everything that could go wrong, did:

Two days before my husband and I were scheduled to leave for Las Vegas, my father had a heart attack. He’d been battling esophageal cancer for a year at that point, and the doctors said he wouldn’t last the day. My father did make it through the day, and the next, and he encouraged me to do the marathon.

Three days before the marathon, I came down with a bad head cold and a nasty cough. I bought some Dayquil and sucked it up.

The night before the marathon we watched the weather report for the Big Day. Forecast called for 35mph sustained winds with gusts up to 50 mph.

The following morning, as the bus drove us 26 miles out of town to the starting line, I took another swig of the Dayquil, tightened the IT Band straps above my knees and prayed for mercy. When we stepped off the bus, the wind nearly knocked us down.

LV Marathon Legs

I glanced down at my calf, in which I’d written For Dad, My Hero and thought about how much suffering he’d endured and about how much I was about to suffer, and suddenly I knew that no matter how hard it got, I would not quit. I would do this for my dad.

Running 26.2 miles in 35mph sustained headwinds is like pushing a Buick through a mud pit. I cursed for the first ten miles, cried for the next ten and then stopped at the dreaded wall. I could go no further.

Doubled over, shoulders shaking from big angry sobs, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and into the face of my good friend, Kainoa. She and her husband had just finished running the half marathon. “Come on,” Kainoa said, “I’ll run the rest of the way with you.”

I glanced down at my other calf in which I’d written, For Mom, My Angel (she’d passed away two years prior) and smiled for the first time that day. “Thanks, Mom,” I whispered.

On the bus back to the hotel, we sat across from a guy for whom this was his 50th marathon. “I’ve never seen anything remotely like this,” he said. “Hardest marathon I’ve ever run.” He looked at my face, caked with dirt and streaked with tears and declared, “If you can do this, you can do anything.”

Two days later I sat in front of my father and placed my finisher’s medal around his neck. “You earned this, Dad,” I said.

He died three days later.

Three years later, after running the Chicago Marathon, I suffered a devastating injury. For the next 18 months, I could not exercise at all. Nothing. Nada. And it became clear that my (very amateur) endurance sports career (I also enjoyed doing Triathlons, and had recently finished my first Ironman) was over.

Calling on my mental training, I began to meditate in an attempt to silence the obsession passion that had consumed me for the past six years. And once I was able to quiet my mind, a new passion arose: Writing.

And after completing four manuscripts, I realized that the process of writing a novel is very much like preparing for a marathon:

In running it’s all about logging miles. In writing, words.

In running you must feed your body the proper nutrition. In writing, proper nourishment comes in the form of lessons on craft (through books, classes, conferences and the like), the support of a writing group, and a good critique partner.

In running you must train your mind to ignore the pain. In writing you must learn to ignore your inner critic, thicken your skin, and buy a pair of Big Girl (or Boy) undies.

Are you a runner? What is your greatest running achievement (even if it’s only to say you set a PR—personal record—on your run to the corner and back).

Are you a writer? What personal accomplishment in your life prepared you for becoming a writer?